By Ilan Manor1938 would prove to be a momentous year in American history. Despite FDR''s New Deal, 19% of all Americans were still unemployed. Orson Well''s, "The War of the Worlds," had caused widespread pandemonium as America prepared for an alien invasion. But it would be the appearance of one of America''s most beloved and enduring cultural icons that would mark this year. For on June of 1938, Superman was born.
The biographies of Superman''s creators, Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel, soon found their way into the superhero''s narrative. Similarly to Schuster and Siegel, Superman was an immigrant, arriving at Ellis Island not from Czar Nicholas the 2nd''s Russia but from an entirely different planet. The ''Man of Steel'' was raised in the Midwest, for he could not fight for "truth, justice and the American way" without first embracing his adopted nation''s core values and way of life. Like the biblical Moses, Superman too drifted to an unfamiliar land as a baby placed in a craft. Even his births name, "Kal-El" could be associated with the Jewish faith as in Hebrew it can be read as "the voice of god."
It is quite possible, that if he had been created in the present day by two Jews, Superman would lead an entirely different life. He and Lois would have left the hectic and crime-ridden Metropolis in favor of the Main Line suburbs. "Kal-el" would redefine himself as a "cultural kryptonian" embracing its heritage rather than its practices. His "menorah" would be gently placed under Lois Lane''s Christmas tree, and Superman Jr. would now attend a non- denominational private school.
With each passing generation, Jewish Americans have sought to find a balance between their ethnicity and their nationality. Throughout the 1960''s and 70''s, Jewish Americans found themselves an integral part of the movements reshaping America, be it the "civil rights" movement or the Vietnam counter culture. Within three generations American Jews accomplished full integration and today many of them realize that their nation''s narrative could not be told without Jewish contribution. All this until Charlie Sheen came along.
In recent weeks, the American media has been obsessed with Charlie Sheen, and rightly so. The lead actor of CBS''s hit sitcom has addressed issues such as drug abuse, the power of his mind and even his "Adonis DNA." However, none of these comments have struck a cord amongst the Jewish community as the actor''s personal remarks regarding the show''s creator, Chuck Lorre. In various interviews, Sheen referred to Lorre by his "Hebrew" name, Chaim Levine, and even called him an "AA Nazi."
These statements, coupled with Dior''s designer, John Galliano''s confession that he "loves Hitler" have caused some Jews to go "running for the hills." As the earth began to shatter under their feet, some Jewish Americans were once again in need of a superhero. And just than he appeared: "Look, up in the sky, it''s a bird, it''s a plane, it''s Abe Foxman!"
Mr. Foxman, the national director of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), has long been a modern day Jewish crusader fighting the tides of Anti-Semitism wherever and whenever he may find them. Soon after the now notorious "Sheen interviews," Foxman stated that "by invoking television producer Chuck Lorre’s Jewish name in the context of an angry tirade against him, Charlie Sheen left the impression that another reason for his dislike of Mr. Lorre is his Jewishness."
Just like Schuster and Siegels'' comic book hero, "Sper Abe" seems to be finding enemies all over the place. It seems that the evil Mr. Sheen has been contacted by another famous Jew hater, former movie star Mel Gibson. Together, they may be contemplating the reincarnation of the AAL- American Aryan League. Luckily, just as Superman was a member of the larger "Justice League of America," Abe is part of the "anti-defamation league" dedicated to "stop the defamation of the Jewish People and secure justice and fair treatment of all." However, Foxman''s response to Sheen''s interviews begs the question; does the present generation of young Jewish Americans really need a super-hero to defend them?
While proudly wearing their "super Jew" T-shirt and listening to the popular rapper "Matisyahu," it seemed to me that Jewish Americans had finally found their balance. I had come to believe that some of today''s Jewish youngsters would be more likely to define themselves as American Jews rather then Jewish Americans. As the walls of the prestigious Ivey League institutions came tumbling down, should it not be expected that the Jewish state of mind would have altered as well? If so, the ADL''s insistence on responding to Mr. Sheen''s statements have proven itself to be an irrelevant organization and a relic of a time long ago when Jewish Americans still felt the need to insure their status as Americans. If the ADL wishes to continue playing a pivotal role in the American Jewish community it would be wise of them to adapt to the present, for "the times they are a changing."